After collecting the first deposit of sales-tax revenues from recreational marijuana last week, Pueblo County is looking for more.
The county collected more than $32,000 in revenue from two retailers who were open on Jan. 1, the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in Colorado.
Once the state is finished with its tally and refunds a portion of its taxes back to the county, the county’s income could top $55,000.
But Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace said Tuesday he believes there’s potential for more income if the county can find ways to tax the marijuana growing operations in Pueblo.
“I think there’s going to be substantially more money in the grows than the stores,” Pace said.
Two stores reported nearly $1 million in total sales the first month and brisk demand thinned supplies both here and in other counties, particularly Denver.
Pace said that represents an opportunity for Pueblo County. Land and facilities for growing operations are hard to find in the metro area, but easier to find here.
Earlier in February, the commissioners approved a grow south and west of the city for Denver-based Kush Club and is considering another grow application, this one near Avondale, from a Denver medical distribution center.
Pace said he’d love to figure out a way to get another $1 million out of the grows, but he’s cognizant that there eventually will be a limit to the taxes the marijuana industry can bear.
“I want to get them into a room and see what kind of tax structure they’re comfortable with,” Pace said.
Retailers are charged a marijuana tax of 3.5 percent from the county and a 10 percent tax from the state, in addition to traditional sales taxes of 1 percent from the county and 2.9 percent from the state.
The state also collects a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana and marijuana products sold in stores but not produced there.
That tax isn’t listed on marijuana receipts, but is the source of money the state will use to fund the promised $40 million for schools that was built into the original ballot measure, Pace said.
But outside of the excise tax, grows aren’t subject to any of these other revenues streams and the county doesn’t see any of the excise tax.
Grows pay property taxes and the county will collect sales tax on equipment during construction, but Pace said he believes there’s potential for more.
The Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder’s office is collecting the taxes.
Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz said last week’s collections ran smoothly.
Because they have the potential to be large cash transactions, Ortiz said the retailers make appointments with the county and bring in their receipts, forms and money.
Ortiz said the office is accustomed to handling a lot of cash transactions, so it was the logical choice to collect the money.
The Obama administration has suggested banks loosen their regulations for states with marijuana businesses and Ortiz said he hopes local bankers reach out to all of the county’s marijuana businesses, both recreational and medical. It would make it easier to collect and pay the money.
“In the meantime, we have a process that is as smooth and painless as possible,” he said.
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